Caboose launches film publications with a new translation of André Bazin’s What is Cinema?

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CABOOSE, a new publisher of books about film, is pleased to announce the launch of its first book, a new translation of the principal essays found in André Bazin’s What is Cinema? Originally published in four volumes beginning in 1958, the year of Bazin’s death at the age of 40, this anthology of his film criticism and theory has been the cornerstone of modern film studies ever since. In their day, these essays had a decisive influence on the young Nouvelle Vague critics and filmmakers in France in the 1950s, gathered around Bazin at the film magazine he co-founded in 1951, Cahiers du Cinéma.

For this edition, a handsome, sewn volume made to last and be enjoyed for many years, caboose proprietor and film scholar Timothy Barnard has prepared entirely new translations of thirteen of these essays, correcting Bazin’s little mistakes, checking his sources and providing sixty pages of annotations discreetly tucked away at the back of the volume. For the first time in English Bazin’s true ideas shine through in this accurate and elegant translation, the only corrected and annotated volume of Bazin’s essays in any language. Avoiding the untold mistakes found in previous English translations, Barnard renders Bazin’s writing, which sought to make his subtle theories accessible to general readers in his own day, even more accessible to today’s student or film buff. In his meticulous research into Bazin’s sources, Barnard has in addition discovered a previously unknown connection between Bazin and the German theorists Bertolt Brecht and Siegfried Kracauer, which is sure to stimulate new research.

The founder and proprietor of caboose is film historian and translator Timothy Barnard, author of several innovative studies of French cinema, early cinema and Latin American cinema and translator of other volumes of film history and theory. Future caboose volumes will fall into one of four rubrics. The first, Theory and Practice, reconciles these estranged cinematic siblings with writings principally by filmmakers. The first volume in the series will be the first-ever English translation of Jean-Luc Godard’s Introduction to a True History of the Cinema, based on fourteen hours of lectures given by Godard in Montreal in 1978 as a forerunner to his famous Histoire(s) du cinéma video project of the 1990s. Other volumes in this series include writings by Pier Paolo Pasolini and the French silent film director Germaine Dulac.

The second caboose series (series editor Christian Keathley) is called Kino-Agora—a place to debate current issues in film studies in novel ways. These short volumes explore non-academic writing styles as a way of addressing micro-topics in film history and theory. Volumes in preparation include Lesley Stern on cinematic ‘things’, the blogger Girish Shambu on cinephilia, Mexico’s leading cultural critic Carlos Monsiváis on Mexican cinema’s contribution to unreality, and the philosophical ruminations of Jacques Aumont, one of the leading film scholars at work in the world today, on Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma.

Reading with Filmmakers is a series that examines what leading twentieth-century filmmakers read and why, and how these books influenced their films and theories. The series opens with volumes on two of the century’s major figures, Sergei Eisenstein and Jean-Luc Godard. Russian film scholar Julia Vassilieva is immersed in Eisenstein’s library, which has survived intact in Moscow and never before been an object of study, to help us understand his vast and eclectic interests and influences. French film scholar Roland-François Lack is puzzling over the literary references in Godard’s films, piecing together not an encyclopaedia or a trivia game but an informed and stimulating discussion of Godard’s collage method and literary interests.

Finally, Critical Filmographies of World Cinema (series editor Peter Rist) is a major reference series examining the history of national cinemas through 100 or more key films in depth. Teams of leading scholars in the field, under the direction of a volume editor, are preparing definitive 1000-word appraisals of the major films in world film history, discussing their aesthetic achievements, cultural, political and social contexts, production methods and much more in highly synthetic mini-essays. Eight volumes are currently in preparation, from 1930s France and pre-1945 Germany to China, Korea, Hong Kong, Cuba, Sub-Saharan Africa and India, with more volumes to be announced.

What is Cinema? is on sale now. Available in Canada on-line from Pages books or in its Toronto store. Textbook, trade and international sales are handled by caboose; it can be purchased at the May 2009 SCMS conference in Tokyo—reserve your copy now. Read excerpts on caboose’s web site and a review of the book at the film journal Offscreen by Bazin scholar Donato Totaro. Check out what the blogging community is saying about it on Girish Shambu’s blog.

Contact: Timothy Barnard